Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


The Curvy Pink Slide

Today is the eve of the unknown. We are on the cusp of a virgin year, and we look ahead with great anticipation. What lies ahead, no one knows, because what lies behind in the old year we never could have predicted.

And yes, today is the eve of all that 2011 will hold—marriages, funerals, triumphs, new friends, the hardest of choices, and sweet lessons from God. But it is also the final act of 2010 and all that it held—marriages, funerals, and all, including sweet time with God. And so we waver on New Year’s Eve between the old and the new. New Year’s Eve is the odd day in which we give 2010 our final goodbye, but at the same time are so eager for 2011 to arrive that we bring it in with a vociferous countdown from ten.

And on this day I am my three year old self once again—at the top of the curvy pink slide, clutching the sides so I can look back at my reassuring mommy’s face, and giggling at the prospect of the fun ahead. But still I waver between mommy’s familiar face and the dark curves ahead, unable to actually loose my sweaty grip, and completely oblivious that Daddy is in fact waiting at the bottom. And mommy suggests, “Why don’t we count down, and then you can let go?”

“10.” Sitting at the top of the slide or at the final day of the year, why do we fuss so much about tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and the dark curves ahead? Why shorten the year to 364 days by missing this very important last day?

“9.” I’m not saying, of course, to forget about looking ahead, planning, setting goals, or making resolutions, because all of this is crucial and valuable.

“8. 7.” I am saying that my resolution this year is to not let that planning become worrying, but to enjoy each day as God’s gift to me. To truly apply Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” is my resolution this year.  Not kinking my neck to reassure myself that mommy’s still behind me. Not diving headfirst down the pink slide and arriving in a knotted heap of arms, legs, and bruises at the bottom.

“6.” But sitting at the top of the slide and, for once, enjoying the view! The guitar-shaped clouds, the tingle in my fingers as the time to let go nears, the exceptional greenness of the grass. Neither rehearsing the past nor dreading the future, enjoying each today in balance is the best way to live.

“5. 4.” We all have had those weeks looming ahead that make it nearly impossible to enjoy the view. With the weighty to-do list hovering we sigh, chin cupped despondently in hand, “I wish I could just fast forward this week.” And I guarantee that 2011 will hold at least one of those weeks for each of us. But fast-forwarding such a week would be the biggest mistake of our lives, because it is when we feel so hopelessly incompetent for the task at hand that God can be the strongest in our lives and show us what He would have us see that day. It is when rejoicing in each day as God's gift is the hardest that it becomes the sweetest and most meaningful.

“3.” So enjoy this transitional Eve. And in all your reminiscing and in all your anticipation, don’t lose the day. Don’t let all the other 729 days you are thinking about spill over and obliterate this little 24 hour period entirely.

“2.” Finish well with a special time in the Word, and as the last numbers of the count down are shouted out and the second hand slips by, relish the view. Make Deuteronomy 4:39 your theme verse: “Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (emphasis added)

Then you can let go and charge the pink, curvy unknown, with delightful surprises emerging around every alarm clock ring, and--best of all--your Daddy waiting at the end of it all to catch you up with outstretched arms and a bear hug.  But as your fingers peel off the pink edge and the wind starts to rush through your hair, don't forget to shout with all your might:

“1! Happy New Year!”

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Picture Credit: Donnie Ray


Come We Merrily on Christmas Morn

Christmas Eve was a beautiful candlelight service hosted by our church but attended by Christians and friends from several churches in the area.

Christmas morning usually begins around six for the younger ones (who aren't allowed to rouse the sleeping until 7). This year, however, parents were up before kids, and we didn't all convene in the living room until 7:45. The "littles" must be growing into "biggers"!

 Grandma and Grandpa spent the week with us, so they got to join in on the morning festivities! After we opened our stockings, Papa read to us about Christ's incarnation--His entrance into the world as fully man but wholly God.

Somehow, hats seemed to be the theme--here, everyone is wearing hats Mama bought for them in Paris!

For the afternoon, we were joined by friends for a tantalizing Christmas feast, an hour of joyous singing about Christ's birth, a devotional, and then Christmas dessert! (Mama, chef and chocolatier extrordinaire made those incredibly complicated, incredibly delicious, incredibly beautiful concoctions above.)

In the evening, more friends joined our party, and we played games into the night. How blessed we were to spend Christmas Day with each other, with Grandma and Grandpa, and with wonderful friends!


The Video That Will Change Your Christmas and Your 2011

I share with you the greatest short film I have seen this year, Eric Ludy's "Intercession."  Don't miss this tear-jerking, passionate, spine-tingling video that centers on the crux of our Christmas celebration as no other video ever has.  It has changed my worship of Christ as well as my Christmas, and I know it will change yours as well.   
Merry Christmas to all of you, and may this bless you as you prepare to worship Christ today, tomorrow, and in the New Year!

Also watch Eric Ludy's other short film, Depraved Indifference.


The Christmas Visitor

Mrs. M with two friends from church

The church of Heritage Bible was caroling, caroling in the rain, going to the less traveled group homes, nursing homes, and rehabilitation homes. Men and women—some surprisingly old, with one man preparing to turn 101 in a few weeks—and some surprisingly young—listened, tapped, and smiled. There were people who didn’t seem to understand or “get” any of our carols, the goodies we handed out, or the tracts we pressed into their hands. And then there were some who sang at the top of their lungs and cheerfully followed the guitar and violins and singers as we made our way through the halls. There was a woman we ran into whom we all knew—her dad, Jack, was staying in this very place, and so we caroled to him just like we caroled to all the rest.

On the way out, however, chattering and laughing and scurrying to get to our next place on time, someone came bolting up to the front of our group with the message from behind—Mrs. M just fell! A terrible, frantic, sick feeling washed over me—and I’m sure everyone—and I was by her side in an instant. There she lay, moaning as we surrounded her. The dark, cold night, the unfamiliar terrain, the wet cement, and the illogical cement block sprouting out of the sidewalk which had almost tripped many people all conspired to bring Mrs. M, a dear septuagenarian widow, to the ground. While Mama took her to the hospital, everyone else came back to our house where we ate, prayed, cried, talked, and waited on edge for the phone to ring.

Finally, we heard the news—she had broken her shoulder in two places and would likely need surgery. She would come back to our place. And so, since last Tuesday, we’ve had an addition to our family during the holidays. Although we already loved her dearly after an acquaintance longer than a decade, we’ve come to love her even more. Her inability to complain, but her refreshing frankness about her welfare if you ask how she’s feeling, her saintly love for the Lord, and her constant desire to help around the house one-armed—can I be like her when I grow up?

God has blessed, and she won’t need surgery after all. That, however, was not the most amazing surprise of the week. You see—our caroling was worth it, broken bones and all; for shortly after, Jack died, eagerly telling his daughter of his last, bright memory—a group of people caroling of God’s love to him at Christmas and always. We were all affected by this, realizing just how meaningful the Christmas carols are, as they tell the story of Jesus' birth. And so, we have two visitors at Christmas this year—Mrs. M and Jesus. I am so thankful for both their visits, but I owe my life to Jesus’ visit—for without His willingness to come to earth in human form, to become a humble man with a painful mission, to give His life and become the death that is required of all of us for our sins, and to resurrect miraculously, you and I would be doomed to an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Praise the Lord for Christmas visitors!

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

~Verse 2 and 5 of In The Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.


The Pigeonholed Tool of Talk

Magnetic. Jubilant. Glowing. I’m positive you can think of someone who meets that description, but as I write those words I am thinking of an older woman that I got reacquainted with last week. I have only met this woman three or four times, but on each occasion there has never been a dull moment as she runs up to me with the biggest smile on her beautiful face and an even bigger hug for me, whom she treats as a beloved granddaughter. And from first hug to final embrace, her every sentence bubbles forth from a heart in love with her God and passionate to encourage girls of His love for them. “We are God’s girls!” she exuberantly told my sisters and I over and over. And even when the conversation turned to the topic of a friend she was ministering to who had recently lost her husband, somehow her words were still exhortational in the midst of the sadness. Because that widow--she's God’s girl, too!

As I said good-bye to this lady and opened my umbrella in the stormy parking lot, I couldn’t help but dwell on her amazing ability to brighten her corner and my day. All the way home, my sisters and I couldn’t stop talking about her—her sweet, gracious encouragement, her undeniable love for us and Jesus, and her passion for the cause of unborn babies. How? How did this woman encourage us so much? How did she manage to be the person that everyone wants to be around?  How did she manage to do this and not come across as the popular "it" woman, but the woman who could and would pick out the people no one knows at a party and instantly make them her best and oldest of friends? How did she manage to be all those things, and still not talk about herself, but focus her entire conversation on others, Jesus, and the person she was talking to?

I didn’t know how she did juggled all of those elements with such prowess, but on that car ride home, I suddenly realized that I wanted to be just such a juggler, too. More than anything, I want every person to leave a conversation with me stimulated and encouraged. I want every person to want to talk to me not because of me but because of Jesus in me. I want every person to feel loved and precious and oh so special simply because they talked to me!

Don't you think that conversation is one of the most overlooked tools of ministry God has given to us?  Yes, we use our tongues for ministry in a Bible study or when someone comes to us with a problem, or after church when discussing the sermon. But we are experts at pigeonholing the tool of our tongues.  At that Christmas party, with that girl you’ve only met three times and whose name you can’t even remember? Chit-chat abounds; small talk reigns king, and exhortational conversation is out the door. 

Cultivate the art of exhortational conversation we must if we would call ourselves corner-brighteners.

So first, converse not to entertain yourself but to minister to others. Don’t make a habit of practicing exhortational conversation with the life of the party—go to the corners of the room and to the people hanging around the food table with no one to talk to. Make your conversation matter, even if it is more difficult, and choose someone you may not know that well.

Be filled with Jesus Christ, or you will have nothing to fill others with. It is impossible to overflow with your excitement about the love of Jesus if you skipped your quiet time that morning. Believe me—it just is! So make a point, even in this busy time, to spend that time with the Lord each morning, for that is imperative if you are to truly brighten your corner with God’s light, and not just the light of your own charisma.

Smile broadly, and take the lead in revolving the conversation around Christ. Small talk is a waste of time—just dive right in and say, “You know, I am just so overwhelmed at Christmas time by the love of God when I think about how He sent Jesus to earth for us. Isn’t that just unbelievable?” 

Ask stimulating questions. There are some people who can go on and on and on about what the Lord has been teaching them, all the while you are desperate to share that one problem or one bit of exciting news weighing heavily on your mind. If you have ever been in just such a situation, wishing that the person would simply stop to ask, “So what is new in your life?” then you know what I mean Make sure to take the time to ask about the other person’s life and get to know them.  Try asking, "What areas of need has God laid on your heart to be involved in ministering to?"  Then get ready to be encouraged yourself!

Being a compelling encourager and a joyful listener is not a matter of social expertise—it is a command of the Lord. Think of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4: He went to the one whom all others rejected, He adeptly turned the conversation to spiritual matters, and He asked her pointedly to go and call her husband. The result of one conversation that could have been mere small talk? The spiritual awakening of an entire city, and overflowing, unstoppable joy. Romans 12:15 commands, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” 2 Timothy 4:2 profoundly urges, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

It can't get any clearer.  Now is the time to dedicate those tongues to God: are you an exhortational conversationalist or a chit-chat pigeonholer?

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress


Mikaela Sees, Smells, and "Savours" London

We had the rest of our trip to tour England, and how captivating that country is! We introduced ourselves to the bus system (never did have much success with that) and the Tube (never led us astray once). Of course, all the classic sights and nostalgic experiences tantalized and beckoned us--we walked the mere ten minutes from our hotel to Buckingham Palace and watched the changing of the guard, complete with a marching band and a twenty minute concert. From there, painfully cold, we strolled down the Royal Mall, with the Green Park on one side, and St. James's Palace (the senior royal residence) on the other. No. 10 Downing Street, the London Bridge (crossed while singing the nursery rhyme at the top of our lungs, of course), and tea at a little shop just across the street from the giant Ferris Wheel known as the London Eye: so many things in just one day!

We also managed to tour the Tower of London under the capable expertise of a yeoman or "beefeater" (the caretakers of the Tower), a thousand year-old fortress most famously used to execute enemies of the crown (including Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn) and protect the royal jewels. Mama and I quite poo-poohed the famous gems, however. Great big gaudy things, they! Who would wear a diamond the size of an egg? (No sour grapes here...)

The day concluded with an opportunity to gape at the Parliament building (by far the most fantastic structure I saw), Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. We enjoyed an exquisite service at the Abbey inside the exquisite yet sadly vacant cavern. Another royal dinner--does it get more English than Welsh Lamb Rack with minted onion jelly?

Thursday we moved into a bed and breakfast run by a lovely old woman who exclaimed over the size of our suitcases and offered up her piano for me to try anytime (and was I going to concertize, she wondered? Concertizing is such a tough road, she speculated, but so definitely worth it). That day we got to enjoy Picadilly Circus (as in "square" not carnival), with its bustling shops, beautiful center statue, and gorgeous Narnian decorations. St. Paul's Cathedral loomed before us in the sunset with marble everything and a rich history beginning in the 17th century--of course, I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that most interesting to us was that the church served as the location of the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and the old woman who sings in Mary Poppins, "Feed the birds...tuppence a bag."

I "geeked" out at the British National Museum. The Rosetta Stone? THE Rosetta Stone? In front of me? In front of me! And so it went...statues from the Parthenon...statues of Egyptian kings from the times of Moses (which I touched)...a Cat of Bubastes...and engravings from an Assyrian Palace. We walked through the snow to find fish and chips (with the ever-present, apparently-essential peas--all British fish and chips seem to be accompanied with peas) to end the night.

We had an experience of a lifetime awaiting us the next morning: the bus tour I had reserved was thrilling, with a jaunt through Runnymede (where the Magna Carta was signed), a tour of Windsor Castle (including state apartments rarely opened to the public but often used by the queen and her guests), picturesque Stonehenge with snow drifts and ravens for props, Beef Wellington in the perfectly antique town of Lacock (where Pride and Prejudice was filmed!) at a 14th century pub, and a memorable stop in Bath (complete with a book shop with the "new" (19th century on) books upstairs, and the "old" books downstairs.

One early-morning, two hour train ride through the Chunnel brought us to Paris the next day for a magical 12 hours with Jen, a friend who is living as a missionary in France with her family. The snow came down fast, furious, and freezing that day, but we still managed to get up to the third level of the Eiffel Tower, wonder at the beautiful Notre Dame, and gawk at the excavations beneath. A two-hour lunch in the most charming cafe (the longer the meal, the better the service), shopping, hazelnut-chocolate crepes, Champs-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe completed our whirlwind, memorable day in Paris. Thank you, Jen!

As you might imagine, Mama and I were exhausted the next morning, but also eager to experience all our last day in London had to offer. We stopped by Handel's house on 25 Brook Street, where he lived for almost two decades, and where he composed The Messiah. Benjamin Franklin's house--the only existing residence of this man--offered an entrancing and dramatic live presentation about the man, his work, and his relationships while in London. The National Art Gallery was a quick stop, with time to gaze at beauties by da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

We spent our last night in London in Covent Garden, strolling the cobblestone streets, enjoying a charming Italian restaurant, and making memories of the scents*, the accents, the people--London.

*Confession Time: In the passport line on our very first day in London, I caught a whiff of a distinctive cologne on a man behind me. From that day on, I smelled this scent positively everywhere--fresh citrus, with hints of cloves, sandalwood, and geraniums. It wasn't until the last night that I found it in a drugstore--Hugo Boss cologne, which (according to my nose) must be the official scent of England.


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes out on December 10 in the USA as the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia series by Walden Media. It faces a nearly impossible combination of high expectations from enthusiasts of the book series by C.S. Lewis and ambivalence from the rest of the population who are generally unaware of this lesser-known episode of the Chronicles. This movie, however, was executed impressively and accurately enough not only to satisfy the book-lovers, but also to win over movie-lovers as well. In fact, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the most profound and excellent movie in the series to date.

As The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie—Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes—have grown considerably, maturing not only in age, but in their acting abilities as well. Ben Barnes, who fumbled with his role as the title character in Prince Caspian, also masterfully acts his character. Together these actors, along with newcomer Will Poulter as Eustace Scrubb, manage to create a superb film that suspends all disbelief and brings the audience along on a journey to uncover the mysterious disappearance of seven Narnian lords.

In addition to its success in the acting department, the movie also generally triumphs in the area of special effects, rising to the challenges of turning a nautical painting into a very wet, very salty, and very real water scene; of turning C.S. Lewis’s detailed description of the Dufflepuds into everything avid fans could have imagined; and of creating the brilliant set that is the Dawn Treader, the boat itself. Only the 3D effects fail miserably, managing to just halfway achieve what is possible in 3D. Truly, the beauty of this film can be appreciated much more in the traditional 2D format.

Watching the film is in itself a deeply personal experience; this movie will stir, inspire, and affect you more than either of its predecessors. I watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and squirmed as each person was tempted “…when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14).” I cried when Aslan freed Eustace of his craggy dragon skin and transformed him into the boy he was always meant to be, and I sobbed again when Reepicheep took his leave of his friends and bravely sailed over the edge of the world to Aslan’s Land. Through these characters, I witnessed the new birth of life in Christ and the final breath of a Christian warrior going to heaven—and these unashamed themes of the movie made the entire experience poignant and beautiful.

Certainly, passionate readers of C.S. Lewis’s series The Chronicles of Narnia will find discrepancies between the book and the movie. Some of the changes worked, and some of them failed (notably, the insipid green mist that mystically “tempts” the characters and the lackluster Dufflepuds). Ultimately, however, the spirit of the book was preserved, and that was exactly what Narnia fans hoped for. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader trumps the movies in the series thus far as a superior, more thoughtful, more beautiful, and more meaningful film with all the richness and depth of C.S. Lewis’s beloved book. It is, indeed, The Chronicles of Narnia all grown up.
Now what are you waiting for? Go see it!

Please Note: there are some scary scenes in this movie which may not be appropriate for the ten and younger crowd!


Mikaela Walks the Red Carpet


Two Narnia umbrellas, two soundtracks,
one journal, and two fabulous Narnia bags
from the folks at Fox!
 Ladies and Gentleman—the World and Royal Premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

On Tuesday morning (after I last updated you), Mama and I took a leisurely stroll down Park Lane to the Dorchester Hotel, where we met with 20th Century Fox to pick up a goody bag and received information about our contact man for the evening.

The beautiful Albert memorial with Mama on the steps.
From there, we took a walk through the fast-falling snow around the entire circumference of Hyde Park (no small feat, I tell you), which parallels Park Lane and is just across the street from our hotel.

As we walked in the below-freezing temperatures, we saw rose gardens, fountains, the Princess Diana Memorial Walk and Fountain, the Serpentine, Rotten Row (a royal drive to Buckingham Palace established in 1689), a gorgeous Peter Pan statue, mirrored sculptures, Speaker’s Corner (where, every Sunday, citizens converge to discuss any and all controversial subjects), Marble Arch, Kensington Gardens, and—most spectacular of all—the Albert Memorial, which Queen Victoria herself commissioned in memory of her beloved.

With our extremities thoroughly blue, we warmed up in our hotel room before enjoying a fantastic High Tea in the Park Room of our hotel (again, all paid for by Fox!). The clotted cream was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted—the look and texture of butter, but the taste and richness of whipped cream. The scones were much less biscuit/bread-like, and the sugar cubes came in white and raw, in rustic, irregular shapes.

From then on, the preparations for our gala evening moved into full swing—bobby pins, rouge, silk, powder, and curling irons flying. We even managed to melt down one of our curling irons by using a convertor, but failing to use a transformer—our curling iron couldn’t handle the 220 volts, and it not only died a terrible death, but it also took a strand of Mama’s beautiful hair with it (Little Women anyone?).

We joined the domestic press (that is, two dozen men and women from various press outlets in the United States) in our bus to Leicester Square (pronounced “Lester”, by the way). Once we made it through security, we found ourselves in a fantasy land—a “roundabout” of red carpet with trees dripping with lights, big flakes of snow falling and floating, and a large lamppost reminiscent of the one in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

There was a stage to one side of the circle where the cast was being interviewed. On opposite sides were two avenues of red, leading to two cinemas. Sadly, we were in the theatre where the queen wasn’t. But we watched her come in minutes before the movie started, and the entire cast came on stage to introduce the movie.

The cast! From left to right: Michael Apted, the director;
Liam Neeson (Aslan); Laura Brent (Lilliandil); ? (perhaps Gary Sweet as Lord Drinian?);
Will Poulter (Eustace); Anna Popplewell (Susan); Will Moseley (Peter);
Georgie Henley (Lucy); and Skandar Keynes (Edmund)

Afterwards, Fox threw a party for the press and us, and we spent the time hashing the movie out with some of the Christian press we met. (Stay tuned for a detailed review of the movie on Friday and make plans to see it this weekend!)

Yes, it was in 3D. Aren't those glasses

My gorgeous mother in the beautiful
Grosvenor House lobby.

I felt like Cinderella, having gone to a magical ball, and then turning back into my own self with a pumpkin instead of a carriage and mice instead of footmen. The beautiful memories of that enchanted evening, however, will last a lifetime.


Hurry, Scurry, In a Flurry!

This week my plate was as full as Mama’s best china on Thanksgiving. The absence of your twin sister and partner in all crimes will do that to you! (-:

And naturally, anxiety has followed.

Driving has been especially hazardous for my blood pressure, because as I maneuver the car ‘round corners and up hills, my mind is racing ahead, stressing over things that I have no control over and can definitely do nothing about at that moment. One particular day this week, I was on my way to teach a few music lessons, and my mind was leap-frogging from what I had to do in the next hour to what I had to accomplish by next week at that hour to what I had to do in the next six months.

And what if this doesn’t go as planned, and what if I can’t handle that…

And suddenly, the Lord stopped me.
I turned off the radio, and I listened.

And the Lord showed me that all these duties, all these responsibilities, all these deadlines—they will get done. After all, Philippians 4:13 does say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

They will get done with me agonizing while both my hands are firmly planted on the steering wheel and my chauffeur fails to make his appearance.
They will get done with me falling into bed at night but not being able to sleep because my brain is planning every second of the next day.
But they don’t have to get done that way.

Lord, You’re right!

I instantly hearkened back to a talk I once heard a woman give, in which she provided the illustration of a lake during a storm. The winds are gusting so loudly you can hardly hear a thing. The trees are shivering their leaves right off into the water and creaking threateningly. The waves are so rough it would be madness for any boat to attempt to sail, and the rain is pelting down with stinging force. But plunge under the water, and all of that deafening noise instantly is swallowed up in mellow silence. The underwater world is milky and calm and peaceful.

And this is how it should be. My calendar pelts the storm, but my soul is at perfect calm.

At this point, I couldn’t bear to turn the radio back on, but I had to simply worship the Lord for this profound-to-me reminder, and I had to sing what has become my theme song of late:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Has not my Lord told me,"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Ex. 33:14)"? Has not the Lord promised, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe (Prov. 18:10)”?

Even more sure than the fact that stress will always exist is the unparalleled truth that the Lord will always be at my side. And one day, He will even appear on a noble white horse, poised to defeat Satan and his minions of Anxiety and Doubt forever (Rev. 19:11-21)!

So I think I’m ready for a swim. I’m going to reject this storm and dive deep, deep under the water. I’m going to meditate on this elixir for the soul and revel in the tranquility that comes when God’s presence is ever present with me.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Mikaela Meets the Queen of England

I am in London.

With my "Mum."

Preparing to attend the World and Royal Premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader tonight in the presence of Liam Neeson and all the rest of the movie's stars. In the presence of Her Majest the Queen of England and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. At the Odeon and Empire Cinemas in Leicester Square, London. That's England's London.

It all started five weeks ago when I stumbled across an email from Focus on the Family proclaiming their exciting new contest--write an essay on your favorite character from The Chronicles of Narnia and why you would like to attend the London premiere, and you might get a chance to do just that! After procrastinating all week, I finally sat down and wrote the 200 word essay in less than one hour, sent it off:

"Edmund: traitorous, narcissistic wretch. I despised Edmund when I read through the Chronicles of Narnia while still under four feet tall. Reading through the books again, however, with an increased stature and propensity for introspection, I found myself in Edmund: hopeless sinner and selfish brute, indebted to another for a second chance. “Aslan” gave both Edmund and I undeserved mercy and forgiveness, and because Edmund made me face my egotism, realize the enormity of my sin, and glimpse the pricelessness of my rebirth, he is my favorite character from Narnia.

"From my halting recitations of the series, to my still-fascinated perusal amid papers and finals, Narnia has always been magical to me. And so I sit here, dreaming of traveling to a place otherwise unfeasible, of experiencing an evening I never dared to imagine—the London premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I am back in the position Edmund and I know so well—undeserving and helpless. Yet I hope. For to go to the premier would be the most extraordinary experience of my life, and the chance to immerse myself in the world of a redeemed Edmund once again would be the most magical thing of all."

And then Lauren came into my room just one and a half short weeks ago to have me listen to a voicemail from Focus on the Family--my essay was chosen as one of the 24 finalists! On the improbable probability that I might win, Mama and I spent the next two days frantically gathering our passport documents and traveling to Seattle to get our passports expedited (if I won, I would be allowed to take one guest, and I invited Mama to come along).

After that, all there was to do was pray. This I did earnestly, as I pleaded with God: "Please, Father, I want to glorify You. If my winning will bring glory to You, then I pray that I will win, and that I will not take the glory for myself. But if my losing will bring the most glory to You, then I pray that I will be content and satisfied with that. I do so want to win--but I want Your glory more. Help me to rest in You." My siblings even fasted and prayed for me! It was on our travels home from the beach trip on Sunday, November 21 that Mama called to give me the news that I had won--the six girls in the car instantly commenced screams, squeals, and laughter. I never settled down that night. I jumped, danced, laughed, screamed, hugged, talked, thanked and praised God, and just wondered at the absolute impossibility of it all. Out of over 8,000 entries, mine was chosen.

I don't even want to know what that particular bathroom fixture on the left is.

Focus on the Family gave me a movie poster, collection of their audio dramatization of The Chronicles of Narnia, $30 gift card to see the movie in the States (it comes out on December 10, everyone, so go see it!), airfare to and from England, hotel accomodations at the luxurious Grosvenor House (where all the movie crew and cast are staying) for three nights, VIP passes to the World and Royal Premiere of The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, and a stipend for food and transportation while we're here.

We arrived in Heathrow fully intending to make use of the all-important "Tube," only to discover that the Tube was on strike. Thankfully, that was for yesterday only, so it should be fully functioning today. We walked around Hyde Park in the dark yesterday, enjoying the "Winter Wonderland Carnival" that had set up shop there (why can't American carnivals be so charming?) and risking life and limb to cross the three lanes of traffic on Park Lane, gratefully finding on the way back that they have "Pedestrian Subways" here--underground crossings that safely take you to the other side of the road.

That's me in front of a Veteran's Memorial.

On asking directions to our hotel, we received astonished responses. "That is a very expensive hotel!" The bus worker informed us. "Very few people in England or all of Europe can afford that!" When we arrived at the Grosvenor House, we discovered that in addition to our room, we were provided with a 120 pound credit in the hotel every day we stay. So we dined in style last night, enjoying artistic salads, wild mushrooms, new potatoes, and lobster.

We've stood in queue lines, educated ourselves on pence and pounds, learned how to dial an English phone number, and laughed with our waiter as we tried to discern his accent ("The potatoes are odd...ODD...H-OH-D." "Oh? Hard? Heart? HOT! Oh! Hot!"), used a lift, and generally "sorted" things out, despite the snow that is falling fast and furious outside. ;-)

Mama and I chose to extend our trip from the three days Focus on the Family is paying for to eight days--we arrived here yesterday (losing an entire day in travel because of the eight hour time difference!) and will leave next Monday. I can't wait to take in all the classic English landmarks I never imagined I'd actually see!

To God alone be the glory!

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